LB on Dennis O’Neil, Comic Books and Romance

Unhappily for me, I don’t know Denny O’Neil, editor and writer of many of my favorite Marvel and DC comics characters, including Spider-Man and Batman. Many people, however, think we must be buddies because we’ve worked on the same projects, know many of the same people, and love and write about some very outre things.

But we’ve never worked on those projects, hung with those people, or loved and written about those outre things together. I did once get a letter from Denny, back when he was an Editor of The Amazing Spider-Man. It was a personal reply to a letter I’d sent to Marvel praising a particular ish (as Stan Lee had trained us fanboys to call them), and Denny’s response was astonishingly honest: He disagreed with me. Said he hadn’t liked the story at all. (And I think he may even have written it.)

So I, of course, have loved the guy from afar ever since.

I know, I know, I’ve said much of this before here on TVWriter™. But I want to make sure everyone understand the background for what comes next, a short but to me incredibly powerful piece of writing over at ComicMix.Com. A piece of writing I need to share:

ONeil Art 130124 Dennis O’Neil CBG and RomanceDennis O’Neil: CBG and Romance by Dennis O’Neil

Great Caesar’s bust is on the shelf

And I don’t feel so well myself.

– Arthur Guiterman

I guess they’re not kidding about this “dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” business. After 1,699 issues and 42 years of publication, what began as the brainchild of 17-year-old Alan Light and, after a few earlier names was finally and best known as The Comics Buyer’s Guide – CBG for short – has reached its end.

I don’t think I ever paid for an issue of the paper but, thanks to the generosity of its publishers, I read a lot of them. When I was sitting behind various editorial desks CBG would appear in the mail once a week and when I had some spare time I’d page through it, reading this and that. It wasn’t a big part of my professional life, but it was nice.

Eventually, I did a short article for it. My idea was to make CBG’s readership aware of Harvey Pekar and his self-published and strange and unique comic book, American Splendor. Since Harvey didn’t truck in the usual comic book stuff, I thought that maybe CBG’s readers might be missing something that was unlike anything else on the market, something they’d like. I now wish I had a do-over. Though my intentions were pure, the piece I produced, I think, was patronizing, maybe because I didn’t, and don’t, know how to describe Harvey’s episodic autobiographies. He was an American original and his work doesn’t classify easily.

That regrettable bit of quasi-journalism printed and, one hopes, quickly forgotten, I no doubt thought I was done with CBG except for my weekly reading of it. But the best was yet to come. CBG played a small, but crucial, part in events that shaped the rest of my life. Cue organ chord.

Getting married is generally considered to be a life-shaper, no? And getting married to a teenage sweetheart you haven’t seen in 30 years, well…

To be brief: Marifran Reuter, nee McFarland, was teaching a parish school of religion in a St. Louis suburb. Talking to a student’s mom, she mentioned that she once dated a guy whose brother had the same name as the student’s father. Mom and teacher compared facts and, yes, the student’s dad was, indeed,the brother of the guy teacher had dated, long since moved to New York and working as a writer. Teach wrote writer a letter and, on the writer’s next midwestern visit, they met and talked until three in the morning. A bit later, during a phone conversation, Marifran told the writer that she’d be selling text books in Omaha during summer vacation. Uh-huh! So the writer, me, looked into CBG and found the name of a comic shop in Omaha. I called the shop and persuaded the proprietor to invite me for an autographing session on the June day that Marifran was hawking textbooks in the area. Then I called her and said that she wouldn’t believe what just happened – I had a gig in Omaha on the same day and why don’t we meet in Missouri and go together…

Would it have happened without CBG? I don’t know. But happen it did, and on a warm Nebraska night, we sat on a hillside and spoke the truth as we knew it and created the rest of our lives.

Let me lay this absolutely beautiful phrase on you again, because pasting it here has made me all tingly:

…and on a warm Nebraska night, we sat on a hillside and spoke the truth as we knew it and created the rest of our lives.

God, that’s how it is. That’s the moment, the beginning of love. Brilliantly presented.

God, Denny, how I wish I’d written that.

And, just as much, how I wish we were friends.

Our 2 Favorite Space-Time Travelers – Together!

Well, for one brief, shining moment anyway:

Doctor Who meets Not Inspector Spacetime

Yeppers, it’s DOCTOR WHO’s Doctor and NOT INSPECTOR SPACETIME’s Not Inspector Spacetime, making each other’s acquaintance at last.

Found on Tumblr by one of TVWriter™’s favorite minions, good ole Minion 42.

And, speaking of Not Inspector Spacetime, creator Travis Richey contacted us awhile ago to clear up some intellectual property rights questions about his show, which,even though it’s no longer part of COMMUNITY (quick quiz: What do Dan Harmon and the Inspector have in common?) can be found alive and well HERE.

Inasmuch as we figure that our visitors are as into all things having to do with creating/writing television as we are, here’s what Trav had to say:

As to the comment you received…, the copyright concerns boil down to the fact that community created exactly 4 things: The title “Inspector Spacetime”, the look of the character, Constable Reggie, and Blorgons.

We had already decided not to use Constable Reggie once we knew we’d have to make the series ourselves, and Blorgons were traded out for a fan-created menace in the form of Circuit Chaps. The simple fact of the matter is that I did not want to fight with one of my favorite shows. So we decided NOT to use the title “Inspector Spacetime” (even though you can’t actually copyright a title), and we changed the look of the character (even though a trench coat would be called scenes a faire in a copyright context – same with the BOOTH)

Everything else in the web series is the complete invention of myself and my writing partner and the fans. So we are pretty much completely free, legally-speaking, to create whatever we like.

I didn’t work out any deal with NBC or Sony. All I ever got was one phone call after i wrote a letter to a lawyer at Sony (it’s on the Facebook page if you want to read it)….

Though I must say, I’d LOVE if they came to me and wanted us to make official Inspector Spacetime episodes. I think the internet would explode a little. They could even have Season 1. All they’d need to do would be to create a new opening title sequence.


And there you have it, an Official TVWriter™ Exclusive about one of our Fanboy Obsessions. (And, you, Trav, have our biggest aplogies for taking so bloody long to get this article up. Everything was going along great till these weird dalek-blorgon thingies attacked and then…)


Love & Money Dept – TV Pilot Production Deals for 1/29/13

producer sharksLatest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are – Because Their Pilots are Being Made

  • Robert Peacock (THE SOUL MAN) has gotten a 20 episode order from Nickelodeon for THE HAUNTED HATHAWAYS, a BRADY BUNCH meets a bunch of ghosts show for which he wrote the pilot. (Time to hit up your agents and get staffed, kids.)
  • Jon Bokenkamp (PERFECT STRANGER) is moving into production of his pilot THE BLACKLIST, a crime drama for NBC about the world’s most wanted man, who turns himself in to help the Feds…but there are certain conditions. (Uh-oh, we can’t think of anything snarky to say about this one. Does that mean it might actually, you know, work?)
  • Ryan Condal’s  THE SIXTH GUN, an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name, is going to pilot at NBC. Think “THE LORD OF THE RINGS’, um, rings only in the old west. (Hey, Carlton Cuse will be showrunner. If he brings his A-game this could be at least as good as THE BLACKLIST.)
  • Brian Gallivan (ARE YOU THERE, CHELSEA?) has a  pilot deal for THE McCARTHYS, a CBS comedy about sports-crazed Bostonians. (Ooh, sports. Guess they’ve written off the geek audience. Oh, wait, CBS…of course they have.)
  • Lee Eisenberg & Gene Stupinsky’s comedy PULLING, about 3 30-something women being zanily contrary is going to pilot at ABC.


Joselito Seldera

Once upon a time, way back in those dim, early days of the 21st Century, I had an Online Workshop student named Joselito Seldera. An excellent student, a fine writer, and a pretty damn good guy, Joselito was the Grand Prize Winner of the 2003 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR contest with a tasty little WWII drama that miraculously also managed to be an eye-overflowing love story.

How good a writer is Joselito? Let me put it this way: A few years ago, he was my first choice as the writer of a film for a Chinese production company I consult with. Joselito had to pass, however. He was in L.A., working hard at learning The Business from the ground up.

And now he’s going to tell you what he’s learned…and what he’s doing with it:

About Abigail Group Director Portrait

6 Writer-Directors, 6 Short Films, One Girl, One Feature
by Joselito Seldera (Producer and Writer/Director, ABOUT ABIGAIL)

There comes a point in many a screenwriter’s life when writing isn’t enough – you want to see your stuff ON THE SCREEN. It’s a natural part of the creative process; you want people to SEE your vision come to life and REACT to it, to laugh, cry, love or hate it. Unfortunately for many writers trying to break into the Hollywood system, it can be a long, long time before that comes to fruition.

It’s easy to become lulled into the system, to believe there is only one route to get to where you want to be. It’s what you learn and also the reason most people come to L.A. And the system isn’t three-act structure, writing coverage, or doing coffee runs. The system is defined by one word, a word we all – writers, actors, DPs, editors, PAs, interns – yearn to hear: “yes.” It’s stifling, waiting to hear that word. And many people will never ever hear it.

I met my co-writers of ABOUT ABIGAIL at USC, a film school world renowned and also synonymous with the big Hollywood picture and system. These same people became some of my closest friends in L.A., and after finishing the MFA program, we, of course, tried to work the system. Some are progressing nicely, while for some of us it’s been much slower going. But in both cases work becomes a priority, leaving us with little motivation to think about creating anything.

Still, like that one girl you can’t quite get over, we always come back. We remember why we came to L.A., why we started writing in the first place – because we LOVE MOVIES. And that’s how ABOUT ABIGAIL came about – our love for movies inspired us to create, and we remembered we could make movies without permission, without anyone telling us “yes.”

And here we find ourselves, close to our fundraising goal through a kickstarter campaign that will propel us into the production of our first feature. We’re forever thankful to our friends and families who contributed, but are more so astounded by donors we’ve never met who give because they want to support indie film or they simply believe in the project.

And that’s really the validation that hits the heart. To know there are people out there we’ve never met willing to support movies they believe in and want to see made is what makes it all worthwhile. Independent film is alive and well people, and there’s an audience out there wanting to see what you got just as bad as you want to show them.

Please check out our Kickstarter campaign and the movie we’re inspired to make. We hope you help support us and independent film by spreading the word or by pledging a few bucks. And we hope our efforts inspire you to keep writing, to keep creating, and to go out there and make it happen on your own!

And “like us” on Facebook!

EDITED BY MUNCHMAN TO ADD: Hmm, while we’re at it, we probably should tell you what this film is about, so: 

ABOUT ABIGAIL is an anthology feature film of 6 shorts by 6 different writer-directors of different points of view that explores how that one girl affects 6 different groups of men. It’s an exploration into the emotions of men behind the facade, what makes them tick, what makes them confused. They’re yearning for that one person they can spend the rest of their life with, and in some cases it’s a continuous, never-ending search.

Ahh, we feel mucho better now!

The Seven Deadly Sins of Screenwriting

Didja ever notice how since Rupert Murdoch took it over, The Wall Street Journal seems like a truly ironic parody of itself?

Except that, you know, it’s real.

And if you overlook the attitudes of the WSJ’s writers you still can find some good stuff. For example:


The screenwriter Neil Landau is perhaps best known for “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead,” an 80s-like comedy that was actually released in 1991. (It launched the career of its star, Christina Applegate.) Mr. Landau’s most recent movie, an animated adventure set in Peru called “Tad, the Lost Explorer” has been a huge box office success Spain this year; there are plans to release it in America as well as for a sequel.

Mr. Landau, who teaches screenwriting at UCLA, is also the author of “The Screenwriter’s Roadmap,” just published by Focal Press.

“I really don’t like screenwriting books that make it seem there are rules to follow,” says Mr. Landau. “Because I think that if it was easy, every movie would be great and every screenplay would work.”

So why do some movies such as “Argo” draw raves while films like “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2? draw pans? Mr. Landau interviewed several working screenwriters including Billy Ray (“The Hunger Games”) and David Goyer (“The Dark Knight Rises”) and discovered that no one really has the answers. Says Mr. Landau, “Everybody’s right and everybody’s wrong.”

When it comes to his own work, Mr. Landau says he tries to focus on “emotional storytelling.” “I like to know what makes characters vulnerable and what they do to cover that up.”

Mr. Landau has a lot to say about screenwriting. Here are 7 sins he thinks screenwriters commit all too often. He pleads—heck, even we plead!—that you avoid them.

1. A lack of originality in premise.

Audiences want something new and surprising, but the big tentpole movies seem to be getting dumber, says Mr. Landau. “And therein lies some of the box office disappointments thus far for 2012.” He points to “Argo” as an example of a film that felt like a “new wrinkle” in its mix of Hollywood satire and suspense.

2. A passive protagonist.

For Mr. Landau, Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins in the recent “Dark Shadows” reboot didn’t “have an emotional passionate goal” which meant the movie felt mechanical. Alternatively, both the lead characters in the French hit “The Intouchables” felt “driven by their active needs.” That’s the way to go.

3. A lack of psychologically and emotionally complex characters.

Every movie needs to be a suspense movie, says Mr. Landau, and that suspense comes from our emotional investment. “If we don’t care about the characters it doesn’t matter if someone tries to kill them,” he explains. “Rosemary’s Baby” works because “we really care about Rosemary.”

4. Static, talky scenes.

You need visually compelling, cinematic storytelling. Movies—big and small—need to feel like an event. “Argo” has a “bigness to it. ‘Tree of Life’ you have to see on the big screen. If you don’t see ‘Shutter Island’ in the movie theater, you’re missing half of it.”

5. A lack of central mystery.

“Shutter Island,” says Mr. Landau, is a good example of a movie that has a great central mystery. “You don’t know if he’s going crazy or his paranoia is justified.” Same with “Michael Clayton”—it’s cut so you need to wait until the end to find out the whole truth.

6. Contrived plotting.

“Bridesmaids” could have just been one joke, says Mr. Landau, but the characters had gravitas and emotion, which kept the plot from becoming too obvious. “There was a lot of heart there,” he explains.

7. A predictable climax

Endings shouldn’t be inevitable—we should’ve seen them coming, but didn’t. Gray areas, in Mr. Landaus’ opinions, are important. Like how “My Best Friend’s Wedding” broke the mold—Julia Roberts ends up not getting the guy.

The writer of this puff piece, Marshall Heyman, is either a Zen irony master of the highest order, deliberately messing with the values Neil Landau is discussing here, or he’s, well, not. Neil Landau, OTOH, seems pretty cool so we’re telling you right now that you can find out more about his book right HERE.